Local leaders in northern Uganda have reacted angrily to the five-year jail sentence handed to Geoffrey Kazinda, the former Principal Accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Kazinda was on Wednesday morning jailed by Justice David Wangutusi of the Anti-Corruption Court after being found guilty of forgery and abuse of office. The former Principal Accountant was dragged before the Anti Corruption High court late last year on 29 counts of fraud, forgery and abuse of office. It followed investigations that unearthed a huge corruption scandal in the OPM involving huge sums of money meant for post war recovery in Northern Uganda.
In his ruling, Justice David Wangutusi said court found Kazinda guilty of the 29 corruption cases brought against him by the state. He said the crimes were committed with impunity citing the forgery of the signature of Pius Bigirimana, the former OPM Permanent Secretary, which he said deprived disaster victims a chance to rehabilitate their lives.
Justice Wangutusi therefore sentenced Kazinda to five years in jail for abuse of office, 2 years for each of the 25 counts of forgery, 5 years for producing government documents without authority and 2 years for unlawful possession of government stores. All the sentences are to be served concurrently.
Justice Wangutusi explained that he had arrived at the ruling after considering the unstable health of Kazinda, his stay on remand for 8 months and being head of a family. He also said Kazinda was repentant and had shown remorse for his actions. He advised Kazinda to appeal to a higher court if he is dissatisfied with the judgment.
Kazinda has two more separate files before the lower court in which he is accused of swindling billions of shillings from OPM meant for the implementation of the Peace Recovery and Development Plan-PRDP in districts affected by war.
But the news of his sentencing was received with bitterness in northern Uganda where the stolen money was meant to fund the reconstruction program.
District leaders from Lira, Gulu, Amuru and Agago who spoke to the media described the five-year jail term handed over to Kazinda as an ‘insult’ to the people of northern Uganda.
Martin Ochen Odyek, the Lira District Speaker, says the people had expected Kazinda to have been taken and tried in northern Uganda where the victims would be able to follow the court proceedings. He adds that the five-year jail term is an insult to the victims.
Christopher Odongkara, the Speaker of Amuru said the sentencing cannot help because programs which were meant for rehabilitating the victims of war in the area are now at a standstill because the funds were stolen.
In Agago, the Speaker John Oweka says they had expected court to pass a life sentence to Kazinda having convicted him on all the 29 counts brought against him.
But Bismark Lakta, a resident of Agago Town Council, welcomed the ruling. He claims the five year jail term for Kazinda is justified because he is allegedly a victim of selective justice. Lakta claimed some senior government officials who were implicated in scandals that cost the taxpayers billions of shillings were pardoned, while Kazinda was made to face justice.